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Five of the best attractions in Hampshire

A stoneís throw from London and a jewel of the southeast, there are plenty of reasons to tempt you to Hampshire. From stunning areas of natural beauty, to picturesque coastline and historical monuments, whatever youíre looking for youíll find it here.

1. Explore the New Forest
Anything but new, the New Forest dates back to 1079 when it was used for the royal hunt. Ancient grazing rights for commoners mean that horses, ponies and cattle are still free to roam the land, much of which is open heath and gorseland. Besides communing with nature, thereís much to see. Beaulieu is not only one of Englandís great stately homes but also the location of the National Motor Museum, where over 250 vehicles reveal the best of 100 years of motoring (and thereís a new exhibition of Bond cars, too). Thereís also a Roman villa, an old mill and a legion of historic villages to explore. With all of this on offer the New Forest is worth an extended trip on its own, and before you set out you might want to think about travel insurance (yes, itís not just for overseas holidays). Staysure, the leading travel insurer for the over 50s offers good value single trip UK cover, with a minimum of three nights pre-booked accommodation.

2. Discover a medieval castle
Winchester Castle was built in the 13th century by Henry III. Not much of it remains now, but the Winchester Great Hall still exists in its original form and includes what was once believed to be King Arthurís Round Table. The oak table, now hanging in the hall, was painted during Henry VIIIís reign with a Tudor Rose and inscriptions for the 24 Knights of the Round Table. Thereís also Queen Eleanorís Garden to explore, a recreation of a medieval garden within the grounds.

3. Ride to the top of Spinnaker Tower
This 170m-tall tower in Portsmouth Harbour was opened in 2005 and offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the harbour, the south coast and the Solent. On a good day you can see over 20 miles. The slim and graceful tower, taller than the London Eye and Blackpool Tower, has three viewing decks, accessed by a high-speed lift. One has a glass floor while the top deck is open to the elements. If youíd prefer to take in the views with a drink in one hand, the second floor comes with a cafť.

4. Relax on the beach
If youíre looking for a spot of beach time, Southsea is the place to head. A mile from Portsmouth, Southsea Beach is one of the south coastís most picturesque resorts, a place of quaint beach huts, wrought iron Victoriana and seaside promenades. Itís the perfect place to relax, either with golden shingle between your toes or on a picnic blanket in the common overlooking the sea. When youíre done relaxing, thereís still the pier to explore and one of the south coastís biggest amusement arcades. And as youíre here, why not take a hovercraft across to the Isle of Wight?

5. Step back in time aboard a steam train
Yes, you heard right. Ten miles of the Mid Hants Railway, closed as part of Beechingís short-sighted vision for the train network, was reopened in 1977 and now takes you from Alresford to Alton. Known as the Watercress Line because it was used to transport watercress to Covent Garden, itís one of the few places to operate a regular steam train service as well as a host of special events. With standard fares offering all-day travel, itís worth using the line to explore the stations and towns along the way.
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